The U.S. educational system is very different from its Indian counterpart. U.S.A. has more than 3,300 accredited colleges and universities, which offer a wide range of graduate and undergraduate programs.
Types of Programs
Undergraduate programs (Bachelor degree) :
This is the first level of post-secondary education that begins after 12 years of primary and secondary schooling. It includes at least 4 years of education and earns a bachelor's degree (Most Indian graduation courses are of 3 years duration). There are also two-year programs which earn an Associate degree. A student who has an associate degree has to study further for a minimum of 2 years to earn a bachelor's degree.
Graduate Programs (Master's & Doctorate degree) :
This is the same as post-graduate education in India. It usually involves one year or more of education depending on the subject or course, and earns a master's or doctoral degree like MBA, MS or PhD. Admission to a graduate program usually requires a minimum of 16 years of formal education. That is, 12 years of primary and secondary schooling and further 4 years of college education.
Types of Institutions
There is no central ministry of education in the U.S. and each institution can determine its own programs and admission standards. There are private as well as state funded colleges.
Universities are academic institutions that include one or more undergraduate colleges, as well as any number of graduate and professional schools, i.e. schools offering study for a single profession such as law.
Four year colleges are undergraduate institutions offering academic programs leading to a bachelor's degree. Community colleges or junior colleges are undergraduate institutions offering upto two years of academic instruction beyond secondary school at a relatively low cost. These offer certificate programs that last for a few months to a year as well as associate degrees.
Institutes of technology or polytechnic institutes offer specialized programs in sciences and engineering, in addition to basic sciences, humanities and the social sciences, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Accreditation is a process by which universities and their programs are recognized for maintaining a certain level of performance and quality. Accreditation is usually done by non-governmental agencies called accreditation bodies. There are two types of accreditation : regional & professional.
Regional bodies ascertain whether colleges and universities as a whole meet certain standards of educational quality.
In addition, certain professional accrediting bodies evaluate the quality of education in specific fields like Business, Law etc.
Importance of Accreditation :
Ensures that universities meet minimum standards.
Only national and international form of evaluation for US universities.
Increases the recognition of degree by employers and schools.
Helps in case the student wishes a transfer to another university.
To check out the list of accredited US universities, go to www.chea.org
NOTE : Government of India recognizes only accredited U.S. universities
It is advisable to apply to only accredited universities.
US universities offer two main semester intakes:
Fall Semester (September/October):
This is the main intake and almost all programs are offered at this times. More financial aid is also available for this semester and as funds are allocated for the entire year during this time.
Spring Semester (January/February):
This is the mid-year intake. There is limited financial assistance available for this semester as most universities allocate funds to projects in the Fall semester.
Some universities also have a Summer intake around July.